From the moment we set our snowboards down on the powder, it was obvious that our instructor had a clearly laid out plan for teaching us. He gave descriptive explanations and walked us through each step, familiarizing us with the board and what we should expect from the class. This was an incredible confidence-booster and helped us quickly trust him for the direction we needed.
Similarly, an organized music teacher, with established studio guidelines and a systematic teaching approach will promote an attitude of confidence and trust in her studio families. One of the best things I started doing years ago was conducting student interviews for prospective students and their parents. The interview includes a time of getting to know the student, assessing their musical aptitude and skills, and having the parent complete a questionnaire (the forms I use can be downloaded for free on the Student Interviews post). When the family arrives at the studio for their interview, I always have the questionnaire, a media release form, and one of my studio business cards affixed to a clipboard and sitting on a chair. I have a separate interview and evaluation form on another clipboard that I use with the student. It’s amazing how even a little touch like this speaks volumes of your professionalism and builds confidence in your organization and excellence as a teacher! Establishing Clear-Cut Studio Procedures is a great first step for setting up a systematic approach to the business-side of studio operations.
Then there’s the teaching side. As independent music teachers we have the freedom and flexibility to use a variety of teaching methods and approaches according to what we think is best for each student. On the flip side there is also the potential for a teacher to completely wing it and never establish any semblance of organization in his teaching methods. When I first started teaching, I definitely belonged to the latter group. Thankfully, God brought many experienced teachers into my life to help me “see the light” and guide me toward resources that have been invaluable! By far, the greatest asset to my teaching structure has been our state Music Progressions curriculum. It is a 10-level program that outlines skills a student should have in performance, keyboard facility, applied theory, rhythm, sight-playing, listening, and written theory. Local associations hold evaluation days during the spring semester so that students can participate at their various levels and be evaluated by another teacher. Even though I don’t require my students to participate in this evaluation, the curriculum provides a wonderful framework for working with students and making sure that they receive a well-rounded music education.
Many states have a similar curriculum and there are even some that are available on a national level. If you’ve never used a leveled curriculum like this, I encourage you to get a copy of one somewhere and study it in great detail. Then start using it with your students. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with the knowledge of where you want to take your students and how you can get them there one step at a time. It’s inevitable that everyone will have gaps here and there in their education, music and otherwise, but the more organized your thinking and teaching is, the more likely your students are to have the confidence and skills to succeed!